My acquaintance with Melissa was intense, enigmatic, and inspiring – and cut painfully short. She had introduced herself in an email, writing of her work for Salesforce, a high-tech company located in San Francisco. Melissa expressed her sincere desire to come to Israel for a few months to volunteer for ADI Negev – Nahalat Eran, to help Israeli society’s most vulnerable members.
The truth be told, I found it difficult to fathom why such a young, beautiful, talented girl from a life of comfort and plenty – thousands of miles away from the State of Israel –would make the effort to call me, to connect. With the missiles of Operation Protective Edge flying high above my head, this girl so seemingly far removed from it all expressed the greatest empathy for the plight of her fellow Jews in Israel. But for Melissa, it did not suffice to feel. She wanted to act– by coming to visit and volunteering for ADI Negev – Nahalat Eran, a rehabilitation village for the disabled located only 30 km from the war-torn Gaza Strip.
Our first and last meeting was to take place over dinner at a fish restaurant overlooking the bay in San Francisco. My wife Didi, Avnet Kleiner, Aaron Parker, and I were quite taken with this girl so full of life, so glowing and generous with her smiles. Melissa displayed a genuine curiosity about her upcoming trip to Israel and volunteer work on behalf of ADI Negev – Nahalat Eran. I told her of my beloved son Eran. I described to her my son who in all his 23 years had never once called me Abba, yet had forged me with the greatest strength and fortitude to strive on behalf of others just like him.
She questioned me about Entebbe. I explained what it meant to land in enemy territory, far away from the State of Israel, with a mere handful of soldiers, all of whom were ready and willing to give up their lives to save fellow Jews anywhere in the world. I sensed her utter fascination and mounting eagerness, the desperate intensity and desire to reach – and reach out to – that which she was destined not to see: the Land of Israel.
And suddenly there it came. The tragic news in Andrew Romanoff’s all-too-brief email: Melissa was gone. Hardly three weeks since our meeting near the water ‘s edge in San Francisco. It was an email that was to drop a bombshell on our lives – an eternal and irrevocable parting from someone who we had so awaited.
Melissa will remain etched in our memories as the pulse of life and hope. We cannot and must not forget her wide smile, rADIant face, intense love for Israel, and her unrealized desire to volunteer for ADI Negev, the rehabilitation village for society’s weakest members. Melissa’s untimely death at the height of her youth and beauty has left us with a timeless, deep-felt message. Let us take to heart her fervent wish, and aspire to fulfill it for her. Let all of us, let all who knew and loved her help to realize her dream – to volunteer, to strive for the sake of the weak, to join efforts on behalf of the State of Israel – sole Jewish home in the world that it is – and to love all human beings for what they are.
May her memory be for a blessing.
In heartfelt sympathy and hope –
Doron Almog, Major General (Res)
Chairman, ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran
To honor Melissa’s memory, join us and her loved ones in fulfilling her life dream of caring and supporting Israel’s most vulnerable population.
All donations will be earmarked toward ADI Negev-Nahalat Eran’s Volunteer Program in Memory of Melissa Caplan.
Please specify that your donation is in memory of Melissa Caplan. Melissa’s family will be informed of your special tribute.